Couples in the same place emotionally stay together, study says

February 13, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Despite life’s ups and downs, couples whose feelings are in sync consistently over time are more likely to stay together, says a University of California, Davis, study.

“We found that the longer periods of stability for the couple were great predictors of staying together,” said Emilio Ferrer, a psychology professor and principal author of a research paper on the topic.

Researchers looked at surveys of 131 of various ages, married and unmarried, and analyzed their responses to daily questionnaires for at least 60 days and as long as 90 days. The test subjects recorded their emotions for nine positive feelings such as “trusted,” “physically intimate” and “free,” and nine negative mood feelings, such as “discouraged,” “lonely,” “angry” and “deceived.”

The researchers followed up after one to two years to inquire about each test pair’s status as a couple. The researchers were able to get the information from 94 couples; 72 of them, or 76 percent, reported still being together.

“Our emotions fluctuate every day and throughout the day … and there is substantial variation in the way individuals react to different things that happen,” Ferrer said.

Yet, even if both halves of a couple react differently, they can still be in the same place emotionally — and have a better chance of staying together, Ferrer said.

Differences in the emotions between members of a couple, even for three or four days at a time, was a predictor of couples breaking up. Ferrer said this was true even for couples whose times of unhappiness were followed by periods of happiness.

“If they move around on the chart and are not consistent, they were more likely to break up,” he said.

The paper, “Analyzing the Dynamics of Affective Dyadic Interactions Using Patterns of Intra- and Inter-individual Variability,” is due to be published in the February issue of Multivariate Behavioral Research.

The paper can be accessed here. The National Science Foundation supported the research. Co-authors: Joel S. Steele, a former student in Ferrer’s lab and current assistant professor at Portland State University; and Fushing Hsieh, a UC Davis statistics professor.

All couples surveyed were from the Sacramento region, and ranged in age from 19 to 74. The length of their relationships ranged from eight months to 35 years.

Of the 113 couples, 19 never responded when asked if they were still together one to two years later. Ferrer said it was unclear whether those who did not answer had moved, were tired of the study or had broken up.

Two people in their 70s comprised one of the most emotionally consistent relationships, Ferrer said.

“So, either they figured it out by then, or they had always been this way,” he said. 

Explore further: 'Trading Places' most common pattern for couples dealing with male depression: study

Related Stories

'Trading Places' most common pattern for couples dealing with male depression: study

October 21, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- University of British Columbia researchers have identified three major patterns that emerge among couples dealing with male depression. These can be described as “trading places,” “business ...

'Friends with benefits' lets couples get close but not too close

July 20, 2011
An expert on sexuality among young people says a “friends with benefits” situation can provide some healthy outlets for sexual needs and desires, but can also be a very difficult relationship to navigate. Rebecca ...

The dark side of Oxytocin

August 1, 2011
For a hormone, oxytocin is pretty famous. It’s the “cuddle chemical”—the hormone that helps mothers bond with their babies. Salespeople can buy oxytocin spray on the internet, to make their clients trust ...

Recommended for you

A walk at the mall or the park? New study shows, for moms and daughters, a walk in the park is best

November 17, 2017
Spending time together with family may help strengthen the family bond, but new research from the University of Illinois shows that specifically spending time outside in nature—even just a 20-minute walk—together can ...

When male voles drink alcohol, but their partner doesn't, their relationship suffers

November 17, 2017
A study of the effect of alcohol on long-term relationships finds that when a male prairie vole has access to alcohol, but his female partner doesn't, the relationship suffers - similar to what has been observed in human ...

Risk of distracted driving predicted by age, gender, personality and driving frequency

November 17, 2017
New research identifies age, gender, personality and how often people drive as potential risk factors for becoming distracted while driving. Young men, extroverted or neurotic people, and people who drive more often were ...

Spanking linked to increase in children's behavior problems

November 16, 2017
Children who have been spanked by their parents by age 5 show an increase in behavior problems at age 6 and age 8 relative to children who have never been spanked, according to new findings in Psychological Science, a journal ...

Generous people give in a heartbeat—new study

November 15, 2017
Altruistic people are said to be "kind hearted" - and new research published in the journal Scientific Reports shows that generous people really are more in touch with their own hearts.

Teenage depression linked to father's depression

November 15, 2017
Adolescents whose fathers have depressive symptoms are more likely to experience symptoms of depression themselves, finds a new study led by UCL researchers.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.